MONTREAL — As tempting as it might be to reach and talk about the Maple Leafs playoff chances, unless they find a way to play better on the road, it’s best to just keep quiet.
A woeful Toronto power play combined with a maddening night of treating the slot in front of their goalie J-S Giguere as a no-fly zone resulted in an easy 3-0 win by the Canadiens.
As if on cue, the Ole, Ole, Ole’s came early in the third period and loud enough to drown out the Leafs fans in the Bell Centre, a usually lusty group who had little to make noise about all night.
The power play, which is now 0-for-15 on the season against the Habs, was 0-for-5 on Saturday with just five shots on net. Worse yet, they were shut out for the ninth time this season and fell to 1-6 in their past seven away games.
And for one final kick, the Leafs haven’t scored a goal in two visits to Montreal this season.
“We expected more,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said, when asked if his team was worn out from a five games in eight nights stretch. “Saturday night. Montreal. Hockey Night In Canada. All the things you dream about as a kid. We didn’t seem to have it.”
And all this against a Habs team that was missing three of its top six defenceman and offensive spark plug Mike Cammalleri.
Carey Price earned the shutout for Montreal, his sixth shutout of the season, two against the Leafs. And it may have been the easiest yet.
J-S Giguere is a model pro in almost every way and comes prepared for every game and practice. You certainly good the impression that Saturday’s game meant a little something extra to the native Montrealer, who grew up a Nordiques fan. He was as angry as I’ve seen him this season after the second one went in and blunt as usual in his post-game assessment of those in front of him. “I don’t think as a group we were ready to compete,” Giguere said. “When you come into a building like this you have to show up.” ... Wilson appears to be at his wit’s end with the power play, trying all sorts of combinations to snap out of it in the third period including reuniting the Mikhail Grabovski-Clarke MacArthur-Nikolai Kulemin line. “We had to try to get a spark somewhere ... Overall, the Leafs power play is three for its past 45. “Nothing is working,” centre Tyler Bozak said. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
We’ll call that Joffrey Lupul’s first welcome to the Leafs moment when he took on Habs’ defenceman P.K. Subban at the end of the first period in a fairly solid scrap. Lupul was incensed afterwards because after motioning to take his visor off, which the Leaf did, Subban ignored the cue and tried to deck him. “I asked him what was going on in the box there,” Lupul said. “I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt this time, but eventually he’s going to stop getting the benefit of the doubt from players around the league.” ... A little early to evaluate Lupul’s play overall as he’s going to have to play his way into game shape. After a couple of shifts on Saturday, he came to the bench gassed ... ... It won’t happen every night as he goes through growing pains, but Ron Wilson has loaded up the ice time for big rookie Keith Aulie in each of his two games since being recalled from the Marlies. On Saturday, he topped 23 minutes as he was once again paired with captain Dion Phaneuf.
We’ll say this just about every time we come to the Bell Centre, but not much beats a Saturday night Habs-Canadiens game in terms of atmosphere. And the later in the season, the better ... One of the game’s great mysteries remains how Leafs fans get all those tickets. Habs forward Brian Gionta wasn’t buying it however, claiming after the morning skate that he never notices the thousands of Leafs fans in the building ... Classy as always, the Habs paid tribute to Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, who was at the game, just shy of a year after she won over the hearts of a nation. “You can feel it when you walk into the arena for the morning skate and when you walk in at 5:30 for the pre-game skate,” Subban said. “It’s something special.” ... Say what you will about Subban on the ice, but off of it he’s a polite kid. He approached CBC legend Bob Cole in the Habs dressing room following the morning skate, respectfully calling him Mr. Cole.” ... That was Giguere’s first loss to the Habs since the 2003-04 season ... Plenty of Nordiques jerseys in the Bell Centre as the move to return NHL hockey to Quebec City picks up steam.